Robert Schwartz is a Distinguished Emeritus Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He has taught at Rockefeller University and The City University of New York, and has been a Visiting Professor at Harvard University, University of Pennsylvania, and University of Chicago. His most recent books are: Rethinking Pragmatism: from William James to Contemporary Philosophy and Pragmatic Perspectives: Constructivism beyond Truth and Realism.
Excerpt: The belief that the world is a product of our conceptualizations, that facts are as much made as found, has an air of otherworldliness. And a forceful “But people don’t make stars” is often thought to be the simplest way to bring proponents of such metaphysical foolishness back to their senses. For isn’t it obvious that the stars in the firmament are not of our doing? There were stars long before sentient beings crawled about and longer still before the concept “star” was thought of or explicitly formulated. Indeed, there would have been stars, with all their properties, had there never been organisms with minds. The claim that we make our world is thus untenable. We do create concepts and theories, but not the facts they purport to describe. These are mind-independent, a matter of the world just being as it is. Now the thesis that we participate in making our world would not be worth serious consideration if, for example, the claim were that we physically fashioned stars from earth, air, fire, and water, and, having given them their shape, placed them in the heavens above. Rather, the claim is that in fashioning and shaping theories, we make stars. This latter version of the thesis has the advantage of not being patently false, and the disadvantage of being more puzzling. For if we do not actually take raw material and work on it until it has starlike properties, surely we cannot be said to literally make stars. So at best the thesis of world-making would seem to come to no more than a play on the word ‘make.’ Perhaps so, but plays on words can be revealing. In this case, it may help us appreciate that the alternative picture of a world readymade, of facts waiting out there to be discovered, of objects that are at one and the same time mind-independent and Self-Identifying, is no less a play on words and no easier to spell out. Still, for those who bridle at using the phrase ‘making stars’ in anything but a robust physical crafting sense, we can grant the point and, thus cautioned, go on to explore whether there is some additional construal of ‘making’ that may serve to elucidate the integral role conceptualization plays in constructing our world.
Schwartz R. (2000) Starting from scratch: Making worlds. Erkenntnis 52: 151–159. https://cepa.info/7893
A constructivist thesis of worldmaking is characterized and some misinterpretations of its claims are dispelled. An attempt is then made to reply to various common criticisms of the thesis. Although this defense of worldmaking takes into account general challenges to the thesis, the focus of the paper is narrower. It is aimed primarily at those critics who typically accept related pragmatic assumptions and themes, but still think it necessary to resist the idea of worldmaking.
Schwartz R. (2022) On Two Challenges to Goodman’s Constructivism. Constructivist Foundations 17(3): 266–267. https://cepa.info/7945
Open peer commentary on the article “A Defence of Starmaking Constructivism: The Problem of Stuff” by Bin Liu. Abstract: I present alternative responses to those Liu offers to two challenges to Nelson Goodman’s constructivist thesis: A. it is not possible for everything to be constructed and B. the thesis cannot account for the existence of things prior to their being constructed.